Best Political Documentaries

Best Political Documentaries

The phrase “may you live in an interesting time” comes about quite often these days, but many are learning to be careful what they wish for. Today’s political landscape seems divisive, chaotic and at times downright frightening. There is, however, one industry thriving in the midst of such an era: documentary filmmaking.

The films on today’s list provide general audiences with a deeper understanding of the policies and politics that effect our daily lives.

American Factory

American Factory is one of the year’s most important documentaries, tackling over a decade of factory-driven politics on a global scale. It covers the story of a factory opened in post-industrial Ohio, owned and operated by a Chinese billionaire. The movie is distributed by Netflix, and produced by Higher Ground Productions: a fledgling production company owned by the Obama family.

American Factory has won an Academy Award for Best Documentary, praised by the industry for its style and themes of great social importance.

Knock Down the House

Knock Down the House is another Netflix picture dealing with a recent and topical subject. It follows the campaigns of unlikely democratic candidates who won their seats in the 2018 midterms. The project was launched as a Kickstart campaign, only a day after Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election.

There’s no doubt that creator Rachel Lears supports the candidates covered, but the film doesn’t go overboard with pushing an agenda, focusing instead on the story at hand.

The Great Hack

There’s no shortage of topics to discuss when it comes to the 2016 election, and this film focuses on the role social media played. In particular, it covers Facebook, and the Cambridge Analytica data scandal that arguably affected the election’s outcome. The company had a role in both US and British Brexit campaigns, and The Great Hack explores the ways in which both are intertwined.

The documentary’s theme goes far beyond these individual elections, scrutinizing the role tech will play in the future of global politics. The film received positive reviews, particularly for its ability to discuss such a complicated topic in an engaging, informative way.

The Edge of Democracy

The Edge of Democracy is a Brazilian documentary film directed by Petra Costra. It details the Brazilian political crisis of 2014 through the impeachment of Dilma Rouseff, and the first-term presidency of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The film was nominated for an Oscar, and premiered at Sundance in 2019.

The film showcases how citizens were betrayed by presidents of both parties, outlining the proof that the politics of Brazil are likely to change with new administration. The current administration of Brazil spoke out in opposition of the film, claiming that it misrepresents the history of the country.

Running with Beto

Beto O’Ruorke ran for United States Senate in 2018, in the deeply conservative state of Texas. Running With Beto follows that campaign, which despite its failure was the springboard that launched Beto into the waters of national politics. The film is produced by David Modigliani, and was picked up by HBO for their new streaming service.

The film is definitely pro-Beto in its tone, but that isn’t to say that it’s a propaganda film. Its biggest merit stems from the energy and excitement generated by the campaign, in a state where no one thought it was possible for a democrat to garner such momentum.


Which of these films have you watched, and what did you think of them?